Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública
Print version ISSN 1020-4989
FELICIANO, Katia V. de O.; KOVACS, Maria Helena; SEVILLA, Elías and ALZATE, Alberto. Perceptions regarding leprosy and resulting handicaps prior to diagnosis in Recife, Brazil. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 1998, vol.3, n.5, pp. 293-302. ISSN 1020-4989. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49891998000500002.
This article reports on a case-control study conducted in Recife, Brazil, between November 1993 and July 1994, to determine how leprosy patients' perceptions and notions influence disease management and use of health services. The sample was composed of 183 residents of Recife between the ages of 20 and 70 years who sought diagnostic services in the dermatology clinics of two referral centers situated in the third, fourth, and sixth political and administrative regions. Sixty-four patients having handicaps or their precursor lesions were classified as cases; the remaining 119 were used as controls. All were diagnosed during the study period. For the analysis, adjustments were made for sex, age, schooling, and a previous history of Hansen's disease among patients. The study revealed the simultaneous presence of two types of "invisibility" of the disease in an area where endemicity is increasing: 1) for patients in both groups, the low frequency of spontaneous explanatory models related to the illness, even in the presence of disease, and 2) for health professionals, the limitations of detection methods. Since such deficiencies affect decisions bearing on individual and collective disease management, they are a risk factor in and of themselves and stand in the way of eliminating leprosy as a public health problem.